Why do we sing at Church?
Hail, hail the gang’s all here to yell for you
and keep you going in your winning ways…
Some of you may recognize these first words to the good old Green Bay Packers fight song. Many of you probably still remember a high school or college fight song. Though you feel a little shy about singing them, sometimes with old classmates you might just break into song spontaneously. It brings a flood of memories. A song can move people in a much more powerful way than words can. Singing together creates a common bond and shared memories. Lots of couples have a song (or songs) that are significant to them for various reasons. We love music.
Please join in singing our opening Hymn, Number 123
The first thing we typically hear at Mass is an invitation to open a hymn book and sing. It’s an invitation that most of us politely decline. We either pretend to follow along or just leave the book and wait for the next part of Mass. You see, as much as we love music, making music ourselves is hard work. The Church invites us to sing for some simple but powerful reasons. Singing totally changes the atmosphere of a room and can set a mood. In the case of the Mass, we are setting a mood of joy and praise, because that should be our attitude at Mass. Joining in the singing helps us to join in the mood. Singing together helps to create a sense of community and a shared purpose.
Praise the Lord!
After the Penitential Rite we break into a long song called the Gloria. Drawn from a variety of Scripture passages (Luke 2:14, John 1:29, Rev. 15:4, Ps. 83:19), it is a hymn of praise to God. We sing it for two reasons, one looking backwards and one looking forwards. We praise God because we have said “Lord have Mercy” and he has forgiven us. Today’s readings set a very high standard for avoiding sin. We are told that even angry thoughts and lustful thoughts are evil. It is amazing that God would demand so much from us. But what is even more amazing is that God also gives us the grace and help to meet these difficult demands. And so we sing to praise him for helping us.
The second reason, the one looking forwards, is because Jesus himself is coming. We echo the angels who sang “Glory to God in the highest…” at the birth of Jesus. He is coming to be present at the Mass, and we sing to announce his coming. This is why we also “fast” from the Gloria during Lent and Advent. In Lent we look more closely at our sinfulness. We save the Gloria for Easter as we yearn for God’s forgiveness. In Advent we look forward to his coming by focusing on his absence. As we yearn for the presence of Christ, we wait to announce his presence until Christmas.
Ultimately, we sing because we were made to praise God. The Book of Revelation chapters 14 and 15 depicts heaven as a place where multitudes of angels and saints and martyrs are gathered around the throne of the Lamb. Full of joy and happiness, each takes his or her own unique part in the choir endlessly singing God’s praises forever. We will be singing God’s praises for all eternity. It wouldn’t hurt to get a little practice now.